It's only left alone, that I begin to hear my body scream.
It’s only when I’m left alone that I can hear my body scream. That I can feel all the pain and hurt. That’s why I will do whatever it possibly takes to avoid it.
“More coffee?” Alex asked.
“Oh, that sweet creamy caffeinated goodness is not going to help” I replied while simultaneously handing him my mug.
Something about having unplanned days after weeks and months of overexertion makes me shiver with unease. Alex put his hand on my leg. As if to pull me back down to earth.
“Well, I’ve gotta get to work, have a nice day Elizabeth” he sighed, leaning over for a kiss.
“Have a great day” I smiled at him. Grateful for his love but looking forward to being alone to not have to hide the fear and trembles.
As he left I noticed a crow sitting in a tree nearby. It gives me comfort. Animals live. I am an animal and so I will live.
It’s been nine months since my brother passed away. I don’t think about it everyday anymore. If anything that makes me feel more guilt and shame. I moved home to be with my parents after the accident. Since then, it’s been a blur of pot smoking and coffee drinking and workaholism. Now here I am. 800km North of my parents in a small town, and I’m not even sure how I got here. I guess I ran away. I guess I knew that here with Alex, I would always have a place to stay. I meant to come for a weekend visit. A week later I’m still here.
Posted on the fridge I noticed an old newspaper cut out. It was a memoir. Ryan Willey, 1996-2016. The same age as my brother, only he passed 4 years earlier. I read through the memoir. Which never mentions how he passed. I noticed his parents named Robert and Elizabeth. Robert is my brother’s name. These sorts of coincidences always make me feel like the universe is trying to tell me something.
“Robert and Elizabeth” I heard my mom’s voice saying our names to us as children.
My brother killed himself over a family fight and misunderstanding. He was worried for me and my drug use and addiction. He was angry at my parents for not taking it seriously. On the night of the outburst, he drove right off the bridge. I was the last one to talk to him before this happened. I was the one who told him to get away from my parents and spend a night in a hotel.
“Enough of this,” I said out loud. I looked over at the jar of weed and rolling papers.
“Enough of this….”
I rolled a couple of joints and headed out the door. As much as all I wanted to do was crawl back under the covers and wait for Alex to come home.
The air was cool and crisp. Fall, fast approaching. The clouds moved quickly, like a movie in fast forward. For the entirety of my walk thick clouds would cover the sun and the temperature would drop about ten degrees only to have them dissipate and the sun to shine again. My mood, doing a similar dance.
“Hot, cold, hot, cold, hot coollllddddd” I sang aloud to myself as I walked. Singing soothed me when nothing else could. At this point, I had no shame. And no one was watching me, that I was aware of. I took my sweater on and off and on again continuing to sing my little tune.
It was only 8:15 am, but as I approached the city park. I noticed that most of the park dwellers were already awake, or maybe just still awake from the night before. One young man looked like he really did not belong there. He sat with his dog and two friends, who looked much rougher and twice as old as he did. I decided to go say hi.
“How’s it going?” I asked the group. Which was composed of an older man who could have been anywhere between the age of 40 or 70, missing half his teeth and hands black with dirt. He introduced himself first.
“I’m Todd, nice to meet ya.”
“Hey, I’m Beth”
The younger man nodded and smiled at me but didn’t say anything. He had a dog beside him sleeping and was perched there holding his banjo supported by bags and backpacks under his knees and behind him. I wondered how long he had been sitting like that.
A woman was with them as well, in about her mid-thirties, she had long curly red hair and her neck and hands were adorned with as many semi-precious stones as she could fit. She was selling her pieces as well. Laid out in front of her.
“Ohhh you are beautiful,” she said slowly and smiling, and then began to ramble incoherently about her living situation. Todd started playing a song on his guitar, with his friend playing the banjo. Which made it even harder to hear what the woman was saying clearly but I caught that her name was Katie.
“Wow, you can really rip the banjo, I said to the man who had still not introduced himself.
“Thank you” he nodded, “I’m Fletch”
“Nice to meet you,” I said, “What else can you guys play?”
Fletch handed me a notebook of handwritten songs and chords. I began flipping through the pages not recognizing too many of them. Eventually, I came across a song I was somewhat familiar with. I asked if they would play it for me. They were happy too, and I found my groove and joined along in the vocals.
Those few moments passed and I couldn’t think about anything while I was performing with them. Not about how I was singing with a group of homeless people, not that I didn’t have a place to live myself away from my parents. Not about Robert, or Alex. Or the pain in my back and stomach that hadn’t gone away since the day we lost him.
I was so absorbed in the music we made together, I hardly even noticed when someone began recording us. By the end of the song, there were now 5 people standing around, and they were all reaching in their pockets for change to throw in Todd’s guitar case.
All of the nerves hit me at once and I felt like I was going to pass out. The corners of my vision turned black, hands and legs trembling. I sat down beside Fletch, pretending nothing happened.
“You’ve got some pipes girl,” Fletch said. He had a real shine to his smile. Like he didn’t belong there. None of the crew did, but especially not him.
“What are you doing here?” he said, emphasizing you as if he was reading my mind.
“I want to ask you the same thing,” I said, he just shrugged.
“Can I stay here a while?” I asked.
He smiled caringly, not needing to respond. I was more than welcome.
What would Alan think if he knew how I spent my day. What does it matter? I pulled out a couple of joints and lit one up offering it to the group. Fletch took a puff and Katie came around to join.
“No thanks, these are my final vice, he said lighting up a cigar, that shit makes me anxious” He gestured to the weed.
“I hear ya, I said laughing” me too.
“There are some pear trees on the other side of the park, I was there yesterday and they were just perfect. We could go see if there’s any more today?" Katie suggested handing the joint back to me.
“Sounds nice, I’ll go with you I said. “Fletch?”
“Ahh, Would be good to stretch these legs” he groaned. He acted as old as his friend todd looked in a body as young as mine.”
“Do you need me to help you up? Katie chuckled”
Just like that fletch jumped up like it was nothing, his dog eager and excited for a change of scenery as well.
“Ima stay here and see if I can make enough for some real lunch and a beer.” He looked up from us from where he was sitting with a satisfied grin.
“Geting sick of us eh? Catch ya later man” Fletch said. Jokingly.
My new friends and I headed off for some breakfast pears. I noticed for the first time in a while that everything somehow felt ok.
Something as simple and picking pears in a park was all I needed to feel human. To see Fletch and Katie laugh and smile despite whatever tragedies they may have experienced in their lives. I felt like I was going to be ok. To know that I could always sing my way to friendship and feel at home. To bite into something so sweet and pure as a pear without it costing a thing. To tap into the world of other lost souls and feel accepted and at home.